A card-carrying trade unionist is the new U.S. Labor Secretary following Senate confirmation on March 22.
Laborer Marty Walsh has taken the helm of the federal department that oversees workplace health and safety, labor law enforcement, and wage-and-hour protection, among other issues.
“He’s like someone you grew up with; he has no pretensions,” stated Gerard Dhooge, president of the Maritime Port Council of Greater Boston and New England Area.
“He is someone who started out putting his boots on and going to work everyday. He is a lifelong advocate for working people,” added Dhooge, who has worked with Walsh for 25 years.
A first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Ireland, the Massachusetts native grew up in Boston. He joined Laborers Local 223 at the age of 21, and rose through the ranks to eventually become its president. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 to 2014.
In 2011, he was elected president of the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council. He stepped down two years later to run a successful campaign for Boston mayor.
The 53-year-old resigned as mayor after his Senate confirmation. He becomes the first union member to serve as Labor Secretary since the Nixon administration.
After the Senate vote, Walsh noted, “I spent my entire career fighting for working people and I’m eager to continue that fight in Washington.”
“We look forward to working with Secretary Walsh,” said MTD President Michael Sacco. “He’s come through the ranks and understands the needs and concerns of working people. That will be an important perspective in the Capitol and around the country.”
Walsh “understands the power of collective action and his confirmation strengthens our fight to improve the lives of working people across the country,” declared AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Now the power to enforce safety and equity in our workplaces has been handed from a ruthless corporate lawyer to a proud union brother.”